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Legal Counsel for the Elderly

Homebound Elderly Law Project Provides Legal Aid for Vulnerable Seniors

HELP comes to D.C. residents where they live

LCE’s Homebound Elderly Project (aka Project HELP) provides critically important legal assistance and advocacy to some of the most vulnerable seniors living in our community. These older neighbors are unable to play an active role in society because of their homebound status, which results in them becoming "invisible" and, consequently, this all too often leads to situations in which they are taken advantage of because of their decreased mobility and limited support network.

See also: Types of in-home care for the elderly

HELP utilizes a full-time staff attorney, para-professional support and a cadre of pro bono attorneys, private law firms and government organizations to:

  • Interview clients at home regarding legal problems
  • Draft or review legal documents that seniors may need, such as powers of attorney or wills
  • Administer a public-benefit checkup to ensure that they are getting all the benefits to which they are entitled
  • Analyze their housing situation concerning any landlord problems or consumer problems or, in the case of homeowners, any problems with home repair, predatory lending or deed fraud
  • Ensure proper follow-up on the identified legal problems either directly or via LCE’s other program initiatives

Volunteers

We are always looking for volunteers! We have a special need for attorneys and notaries, but anyone can volunteer to serve as a witness when we finalize important documents in seniors' homes.

If you are an attorney licensed in the District of Columbia, please consider taking a case from us pro bono. We have many homebound seniors who need legal assistance. Our staff often gives training presentations on basic estate planning at area law firms. Please let us know if you are interested in hosting a training session.

If you are a notary licensed in the District of Columbia, please consider volunteering to help our clients execute important documents. Periodically, we send emails to our volunteer notaries asking if they can meet us at certain times and places to notarize documents for our homebound clients. Please send us your email address, and we will add you to our list.

One Case Among Many

Project HELP assisted an 86-year-old widow and longtime D.C. resident with a complex set of issues in a case that lasted several months. The elderly woman was living in squalid conditions in an apartment in Ward 7. The landlord had started needed repairs to her apartment months beforehand, but never completed them. Large black garbage bags covered the areas where the walls and ceiling had been removed, the floor was covered in construction dust and debris, the windows were broken, and the apartment was infested with roaches and rodents. The sub-par electrical wiring prevented her from using her oxygen machine unless the lights and television were shut off. Moreover, there was no heat or hot water.

Upon meeting with and speaking to this very kind, elderly woman, it became clear she was no longer mentally competent. To further complicate matters, the power of attorney that she had signed in favor of her son was discovered to be invalid under D.C. law. Thus, we filed a petition for her son to be appointed as her emergency guardian. Once the emergency guardianship was granted, we filed a Temporary Restraining Order, a Preliminary Injunction, and a Complaint in the Housing Conditions Court. After the emergency guardianship expired, we also successfully pursued his appointment as her general guardian.

Through our negotiations, the landlord agreed to make the necessary repairs. But when this did not happen in a timely manner, we negotiated for a new apartment, also owned by the same landlord, paying the same amount of rent but in a much nicer building.

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PRO BONO OPPORTUNITIES

Pro Bono Projects: We have a backlog of 80-100 seniors on our waiting list for a pro bono attorney to prepare wills and/or powers of attorney. Additional pro bono projects may range from non-litigation to litigation.

Systemic Reform Projects: Please agree to lead or assist a systemic reform project that will benefit many elderly, low-income seniors. Projects may include litigation, drafting legislation, research, advising multiple clients on a systemic issue, and/or writing instructional materials for lawyers and clients.  See All Pro Bono Opportunities

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